April 7 to 14 are the National Days of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust. With the national events occurring for the past 20 years, Pocatello has not once had an event for remembrance – until now.
The Pocatello community heard two stories from Holocaust survivors Thursday night.
The stories were not easy hear, but they were certainly eye-opening to a time when many of those in attendance were not alive to know about the Holocaust.
The two survivors told their stories about being torn from parents and siblings, not knowing if they were ever going to see them again.
Eva Aigner recounted the struggle her mother went through after being separated from her and her sister. Her mother was taken away at gunpoint to a train bound for another camp.
When the train doors opened a distance away, she immediately jumped onto the platform and began to run.
A soldier ordered her to stop, but she got on her hands and knees and, thankful for learning several languages, told him in his native tongue that she needed to get back to her daughters or they would die.
"'And if I help you, I could be killed myself, but I will try my best.' And he took his gun, turned around like he was watching the train, and said to my mother 'Run, if you can.'"
He spared her life to let her run into the woods, and back to the ghetto in Budapest, Czechoslovakia.
The journey took days, and Aigner said it was a miracle they were reunited.
Her husband, Les, was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, then to Dachau, where he survived, though found out later most of his family had not.
This moving presentation would not have happened if not for the interest of one young woman.
"I love to just be aware of it, that it did happen,” said 21-year-old undergraduate student Tyffnee Stewart. “You can't be desensitized. You have to still have feelings about it."
Stewart said she visited Washington, D.C., last year during the national days of remembrance. While she was there, she attended four different presentations recounting the different survivors' experiences.
One point behind this event is to establish an annual memorial event. But these events also help make these stories available on a larger scale.
"Create an archival website where students of ISU and the general public can access these stories for years,” said Dr. Justin Dolan Stover, event organizer, “long after those who are giving them have passed on."
Stover, who studied abroad for several years and received his master's and Ph.D in Modern European history, said this event is likely the most important.
“This is the flagship,” he said. “This is the inaugural event."
Eva and Les lived separately in Dachau and Budapest. It wasn't until moving to the U.S. that they met and were married.
In 1994, they helped establish the Oregon Holocaust Memorial.
Stover said their story, along with the other survivor's, should be remembered, and a way to do that is to ensure these events continue.
"I'm on board to do this every year as the organizer, I've already identified a few Holocaust scholars for next year, and we may approach them at the end of the summer.”
Stewart said that being with the two survivors is something she will never forget, and, along with many people in the presentation, has left an impact for life.
Holocaust Remembrance Day was Monday, April 8. The theme designated by the Museum for the 2013 observance is "Never Again: Heeding the Warning Signs."
To find out more about the Holocaust, visit the National Memorial website at http://www.ushmm.org/.
To find out more about the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, visit their website at http://www.ohrconline.org/.